Monday, September 26, 2011

Kindle Is More Than A Tablet

What are you doing on Wednesday this week? There are strong indications that Amazon are to announce its long awaited tablet offer in Manhatten. Will it change what you do from that moment on, or will it merely be more technology news and leave you waiting for the sports results?

Amazon will certainly announce its entry into the tablet market very soon with the aim of capturing that Christmas surge. Some will ask themselves why they should buy one and not the iPad and will be appreciated as a present or merely viewed as second best? Will Amazon’s entry be any different to that of Motorola, HP, Blackberry, Acer and all who have failed to register their tablet offers against Apple?

First we must forget looks that will remain with Apple. We must also forget user interface that will remain with Apple. Finally, we must forget desirability that like a sports car or any design icon will remain with Apple.

So what has Amazon got going for it? How on earth can it make its mark against such an iconic slab of technology and a brand that is so clean that everyone respects it even though they may not own one?

The answers are many but are simple and to understand them you have to first understand Amazon’s history and the basics of their consumer proposition.

Amazon doesn’t sell books, films, music and games to shift technology, but sells cheap and usable technology to shift, music, books, film, games. This is a fundamental difference which changes how the device and its interface works. Amazon didn’t have to invent agency pricing to establish a margin, it was already media retailer and understood the market, pricing and how to control it and make money.

Amazon importantly has created a global offer that is known everywhere and unlike its main book competitors Barnes and Noble and Kobo has recognised that a world really does exists outside of North America. Amazon is a media retailer and no longer a book, music or film retailer. It has integrated itself into the very fabric of the markets it serves and with a tablet will exploit this further. It supports authors, publishers, libraries, affliates. Kindle is a true cross platform offer.

Importantly, it has realised that network connectivity is important and what we saw as a Whispernet limitation in the early days is now a positive plus. Just go to any one of the 150 plus countries in which its Kindle service is supported and enjoy free connectivity, downloads and no bills. You can even download your local library book from anywhere in the world with no tethering, network charges and no hassle. This may not be important for the vast majority of US citizens that never leave the US but is very important in the rest of the world.

We hated eink and the ‘lookie likey’ readers it spawned and with the exception of the Kindle still do. The Kindle however clunky is practical and satisfies text reading, provides a somewhat crude internet browser service and can satisfy email. The keyboard may be built for tiny fingers but it works. Now think of a Kindle colour tablet with touch screen offering the same plus Amazon apps under Android and all at a price probably half of that Apple and with no extra hidden costs. The range of media will be unbeatable, the price of media will be a keen as any, you can also buy physical goods and all this will be tightly integrated into the tablet is a way that could make ‘one click’ a real bonus and create a Kindle experience.

Apple tablets will continue to evolve but we still use tablets for the basic stuff o cover the bases people want email, web access, entertainment and an extension to their mobile phone world.

The Kindle will not beat the iPad but will be part of a kindle offer that will be clearly more attractive to many seeking value for money. Apple will not be the dominant book retailer and library service provider. They will not attract authors, affiliates and never sell both digital alongside physical. Despite the success of iTunes they remain a high ticket technology company looking for consumers and technology churn and what technology they deliver today they want you to upgrade tomorrow. Amazon merely wants you to buy, rent or loan another book, film, game and track.

1 comment:

Mike Perry said...

After using Lion since the day it was release, I'm not so sure I'd concede that Apple always wins the UI awards.

Once I understood the features Lion brought, I began to ask myself why Apple could do something so stupid. Ever app I need to do autosave, already does it and does it elegantly, taking into account the purpose of the app and my needs. Apple's auto-versioning scheme seems to have been designed by clueless nerds. And even worse, there's no way to turn the monstrosity off.

I finally realized what I think happened at Apple. There's a certain percentage of the population that will never 'get' computers. They simple don't have what it takes to do that, much like I can never 'get' a second language.

Unfortunately for Apple, friends and relatives, tired for the upteenth time, of having to explain that documents have to be saved or they're lost, have been getting these twits to buy Macs. The result has been a disaster for Apple support. I can understand that.

What I can't understand is why Apple would force features that only benefit the clueless on the rest of us and give us not option to turn them off. Doesn't Apple realize that every 'feature' has a downside, that there just might be children (much less adults) who want to be able to take the training wheels off their bikes?

Take Apple's implementation of versioning and auto-save. It stuffs everything it decides to 'save' and apparently every few seconds into one huge file that can grow, grow, and grow.

As a writer who's been using computers for some thirty years, I gain nothing from it. Merely time-stamped updates mean nothing to me. I make my own versions, carefully labeled as such, before I began major edits.

Even worse, I recently souped up my MacBook with a marvelous SSD, whose only limitation is its small storage capacity. That'd be fine if OS X Lion were an intelligently designed OS. It isn't because with Lion I've got that secret, hidden version file gobbling up more and more of my storage.

So no, Apple doesn't have a monopoly on brilliant UIs. They can create turkeys like everyone else. It never has.

For years, it tried to foist one-button mice on us before giving up. Now it's trying to force these 'twit' features on all of us, whatever our expertise. Apple wants every bike they sell to come with these silly training wheels welded to the frame.

That I don't like.